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Gauck at the ITS

Joachim Gauck, Chairman of the association “Against Oblivion – For Democracy”, came to see the International Tracing Service (ITS) at Bad Arolsen yesterday. “The visit had long been overdue”, so Gauck. “I am struck and stunned by what I was shown.” He visited the archives, informed himself of the structural build-up of the research department and viewed requests filed by Nazi victims and their next of kin.

“I have been able to witness in person the relevance of the work the ITS performs”, said the longstanding Federal Commissioner responsible for preserving the records of the Ministry for State Security of the former GDR (Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes/BStU). “People working in this place commit themselves to preventing oblivion, to finding and preserving victims’ names – in other words: they engage in maintaining the dignity of man.”

Gauck assured that he had learned many new things. “The details you have not been aware of before will touch you most, of course.” These details include for instance a lice list from Gross Rosen Concentration Camp. “Dictators write down virtually everything, because they do not believe that their rule will end one day.” The Chairman voiced his support for the need of preserving the documents’ collection of the ITS in its current shape. “Somehow, that collection reflects and characterizes the way we deal with our history.”  

He stressed the importance of imparting the knowledge derived from the documents to the next generation. “Freedom is a value innumerable people take for granted today”, so Gauck. “But we have to face, and live up to, the responsibility it involves for us.” In his view, the ITS documentation suggests itself for joint projects with schools on an educational plane. And to add to that: the tasks of the ITS are consistent and, thus, compatible with the commemorative work pursued by other initiatives such as the history workshops. “We need individuals co-engaging in pondering on and learning from our past.”

Following his visit to the tracing service, Gauck opened the new exhibition launched by the association “Flashback – Against Oblivion” at Volkmarsen. The association advocates tolerance and respect for human dignity opposing violence and the discrimination of minorities. The exhibition depicts and illustrates the lives lived and the fate suffered by Jewish families in North Hesse before and during National Socialism. “The numerous local citizens’ groups are crucial to keeping memory alive and filling our work with life”, said Gauck.